Five Years of Low Happiness Levels Among Singapore Workers

Work happiness seems elusive for many in Singapore. According to the JobsCentral 2013 Work Happiness Indicator survey done in the middle of this year, Singapore workers have shown consistently low levels of overall work happiness for half a decade.


In addition, today’s workers are only marginally happier than workers in 2009, a year that was difficult for many people because of the recession. In Singapore, the overall 2009 Work Happiness rating was 56.4. In 2013, this figure only inched up slightly to 57.9 points.


“The workplace environment in Singapore is a tough and demanding one," says Lim Der Shing, Chief Executive Officer of JobsCentral Group. "On one hand, employers face challenges such as business growth and profitability amidst a background of rising costs and human resources crunch. This often leads to higher productivity expectations of their employees. On the other hand, employees feel the pressure to make more money and move up the career ladder in order to meet their aspirations and financial commitments.”


On the topic of constantly low happiness scores, Lim adds, “Unfortunately, for work happiness levels to hover within the same unhealthy range for five years, it is clear that there is a mismatch between what employees want and what jobs are able to provide. This is a worrying trend, as a marginally happy workforce would have repercussions on work productivity, innovation and Singapore’s economic growth in the longer term.”


Over 3,500 Singapore workers took part in the JobsCentral online survey this year, which ran from 22nd May to 23rd June, with a margin error of 1.64 per cent, at confidence levels of 95% for a Singapore labour force population of over 3.3 million.


Workers approaching retirement age are unhappiest
Singapore workers are probably most miserable at work if they’re between 51 – 60 years old. Those in this age group scored the lowest with a score of 55.5 -- a 12 per cent drop in work happiness since 2009. On the other hand, those aged 61 years and above are the happiest. This group scored 69.8, placing them in the ‘Moderately Happy’ category.


Money is king but Millennials also value ‘Advancement Opportunities’, while Generation X wants ‘Work-life Balance’


Singapore workers want money. Across all age groups, respondents agree that ‘Salary’ is the most important aspect of a job. However, Generation X also wants ‘Work-life balance’, and voted it as the second most important. In contrast, ‘Work-life balance’ only ranks 4th place among the Millennial Generation. The Millennials – those aged 29 years and below – ranked better ‘Advancement opportunities’ in 2nd place instead.


Finance workers who earn S$8000-8999 gross monthly salary per month are the happiest, scoring 72.8 against the overall average of 56.8. Workers who earned S$10,000 and above came in second, with a score of 64.3 and those who earned S$9000-9999 came in third, with a score of 63.9.

Safe working conditions (7.43), good relations with colleagues (7.11), and location of work (6.96) came in as the top three work attributes Finance industry workers are most satisfied with.


Most important but cause most dissatisfaction

While salary and career advancement are of top importance to Singapore workers, these two aspects are also, unfortunately, the ones they are most dissatisfied with. These may be the underlying reasons for the Singapore workers’ dismal scores. As the cost of living rises in Singapore, workers feel the pressure to make more money to maintain their aspirations and way of life.


$10,000 monthly salary is the ‘magic’ mark
Those earning $10,000 and above each month are really, really happy. They also have one of the highest increases in work happiness compared to 2009. In contrast, those who earn $5,000 - $5,999 monthly have the greatest decline in happiness levels.


Lawyers are unhappy at work
Even though lawyers tend to command a higher average salary than the average Singapore worker, employees in Legal job functions have shown the largest decline in happiness, with a 6 per cent decrease in overall work happiness in 2013 compared to 2009. 


They are also among the least happy groups of workers, alongside Supply Chain/Distribution and Merchandising workers.

Suggested Articles

Some of you might have already been aware of the news that Questex—with the aim to focus on event business—will shut down permanently all media brands in Asia…

Some advice for transitioning into an advisory role

Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Check out this report for areas of concern